When Senate Bill 408 passed last May, several changes were made to Florida Statute 626.854, which defines public adjusters and limits the profession. Many of these changes and additions went into effect on January 1, 2012.

A complete copy of the statute is available here and should be studied by all Florida licensed public adjusters because several new sections were added to the previous statute. But please note, many of the changes only apply to residential and condo unit owner policies, and the distinctions should be carefully noted.

With respect to advertising, public adjuster advertisements now must include a specific bold and capitalized disclaimer. The Legislature also clarified the prior statute by giving more explanation on what it considers to be an untrue, deceptive or misleading advertisement for the services of a public adjuster. Many other changes related to advertisements should not be dismissed.

Check out section 11 of the statute — it includes changes to public adjusting fees for reopened or supplemental claims for certain types of insureds.

Section 14 of the statute includes important additions that can impact a claim as a whole. Now, when an insurance company representative needs access to the property, the carrier or representative must give at least 48 hours notice to the insured before scheduling a meeting or an onsite inspection. The insured may deny access if the insurance company or their investigator just shows up onsite without the proper notice. But compare this to section 15(b), which states that a public adjuster may not restrict or prevent an insurer or its representative from reasonable access at reasonable times to an insured or the insured property. Section 15(c) further provides that if the unavailability of a public adjuster otherwise delays the insurer’s timely inspection of the claim, the policyholder must allow the insurer to access the property without the public adjuster.

It will be interesting to see how this section of the statute will play out in actual claims. One of the issues that often occurs in a claim, especially if the damage was caused by a catastrophe, is that the insured has a difficult time getting anyone from the insurance company to actually come to the property and inspect the loss. I have represented many clients, both with and without public adjuster representation, who would have been thrilled if their insurance company would have come to their property promptly after being notified of the loss. This addition to the statute may cause more insurers to place the blame for the delay on pubic adjusters or the insured and claim a violation of statute. But now, many of the claims inspections are coordinated via email between the two sides and a written record may help courts decide if inspection timing was reasonable or delayed and who caused the delay.

Now, Florida Statute 626.860 provides that a public adjuster cannot otherwise be excluded from an in-person meeting with the insurer and insured, and that the insurer must meet or communicate with a retained public adjuster regarding the scope of the covered loss.

Finally, Section 16 prohibits a licensed contractor from adjusting a claim on behalf of an insured unless that person is also a licensed and compliant public adjuster. A person who holds both licenses should not be wearing both hats and contractors can’t engage in public adjusting under the guise that it is contracting.

Remember to download or print a copy of the statute for easy reference and note that sections 5-16 of §626.854 are specific to condominium unit owners and residential claims.